Shared Stories: Intrepid Traveler

Katie Troy has had MS for 15 years, and she is known for her independent spirit and her commitment to a healthy diet.  Not much can slow her down as she travels around town in a motorized wheelchair, but an airplane trip to a family reunion was a special challenge.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Katy Troy

On July 13, 2017, I left for Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh, the “Burgh.” My boyfriend Larry drove me to LAX with my suitcase, my purse, my walker, and a coat for the airplane ride.  My mom and dad would have a manual wheelchair when I got there in Chippewa.

The reason for the chair and walker is that I have had MS for 15 years, but it doesn’t have me. I wished that I could bring my motorized chair but I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t get to use it like I do in California, cruising the streets the way I do.

When we got to the airport there was a lot of construction going on. We couldn’t figure out how to get to the terminal. Larry found the way to get there through all the mess. So he pushed me to where we had to check in and I could go to the John. Then he had to go back to the car and get my coat, walker, and suitcase. They gave us a wheelchair at the airport to borrow.  Larry soon had to say his goodbyes after we checked my things in and got my ticket.
I had a very nice lade escort me through the X-ray machine to make sure I wasn’t carrying any ammo or bombs.  I left that at home, LOL. I didn’t have to take my moccasins off.  They didn’t even frisk me this trip. They just had to swipe the palms of my hands.  All I had for carry-on was my purse and my furry coat to use as a blanket for the 4 ½ hour ride.

I totally forgot to bring some money to tip my little lady who took me to my boarding place. She just said, “That’s okay. Just bless me.” She was so sweet.  We talked a while. More me than her.  I was telling her about my vinegar and health foods. She put all that information I gave her into her phone.  

When we got to my gate a lady was there in a wheelchair also.  Her name was Nel. She was going home to Pittsburgh. She had been visiting her kids in California.

I had to go to the John again, so I wheeled myself there and back. Thank God I could do that because in Pittsburgh, they gave me a chair on wheels, but I couldn’t move it. I was stuck. It was horrible. The only way it could go was if somebody pushed you. I was totally immobile (handicapped) Big Time. I couldn’t go to the john, go shopping for the Burgh T-shirts, or magnets, nothing.  I was stuck.

When it was time to load me on Southwest Airlines, a man who works there pushed me to the plane. I was the second one on. Nel was the first. She could walk pretty well. Her legs were arthritic and had other problems.  They strapped me in a tiny wheelchair that could fit in the aisles. They didn’t have to go far. I sat in the first seat, close to the John and it had lots of leg room.

Nel and I talked almost the whole flight. Like I said, she was leaving her family, I was going to mine.

When we landed, I let everyone go before me. I had to wait for a wheelchair and my sister Marianne was probably on her way to meet me at baggage claim, while her husband Rick was waiting at the car.

I got to the baggage claim with assistance from a man who took me there with one of those wheelchairs I can’t control.  It was okay because my sister was waiting at baggage claim.
The man got my luggage for me and my sister asked me if I had any money.  I didn’t, so she tipped the guy who helped us.  Rick and Marianne helped me get into the front seat of their car, and then loaded my walker and luggage.

They were taking me to my mom and dad’s house. It was 2 a.m. Pennsylvania time. It was only 11 o’clock California time. It had rained before I landed and was kind of muggy, humid already. It was about a 40-minute ride to my mom and dad’s. They greeted me. My brother Carl was at Rick and Marianne’s.

The next day we all went to a very cool restaurant for a family reunion on my Irish mom’s side. You could see the machines that make the beer right underneath your feet.

My mom would always tell me not to bring up food. I don’t, and I didn’t.  But the very first thing that happened when my sister wheeled me into the restaurant was that my cousin Maureen came right up to me and said, “So you’re a Vegan. Tell me what you eat and I want to try your vinegar cocktail.”

Another cousin John told me that his son Pat wanted to know if he would join him in going Vegan. They’ve been on the plan for 90 days and loving it. John lost 191 lbs. so far and he says he feels so much better. I wonder how much more he would have lost if he was taking vinegar cocktails also, and coconut oil.

My sisters Marianne and Patty and I stayed at a motel so we could go to the reunion.
My cousin John had formed what we call the Irish Open! It was pretty crazy how this all started 27 years ago. There was this wedding scheduled that never took place.  The bride-to-be, Karen, and the groom decided against it at the last minute.  

“What are we going to do now?” my cousin John asked.  

Another cousin said, “Let’s go golfing.”

John said, “I don’t know how to golf.”

That’s how the Irish Open started. The girls and guys would go play golf and the others with their kids and older people would hang out in the club house and talk and eat snacks. And there was a bar, of course.  

We played Bingo and won prizes. My cousin Eileen would call the numbers, and if we got Bingo, we had to yell, “Ognib!” That’s Bingo spelled backwards.  

When the others came back from golfing we had dinner.  The golfers had won trophies and my brother Mike’s team had come in first place!

After dinner about seven or eight kids come up and did pushups.  They got a dollar for each one they did.  I believe that one did 54, and another 49!  I should have done it and got at least five bucks!

A sweet little girl was asking earlier if I had anything to report for John to announce later. I wasn’t thinking, but I should have said something about my mom and dad’s 63rd wedding anniversary (Pat and Carl) and my dad’s 90th birthday.

John was up on the podium reading all the things that people wrote about their loved ones who have passed, like my Uncle Jim.  He was a real character.  He was full of jokes.
When John was all done, his son Pat came up and was talking and thanking everyone for coming and pointed at me saying that he found a new vegan friend.

I also had to announce that I didn’t put on paper that it was my mom and dad’s 63rd anniversary and my dad’s 90th birthday.

I really hope to go again next year and make it to my dad’s Italian side of the family.  I’ll have to stay about a month to make it to both reunions.